PwC with Progress Together

Social Value

MCA Awards Finalist 2024

The Financial Services sector displays a notable lack of diversity at senior levels. Its leadership continues to be dominated by those from professional family backgrounds, and far more so than other sectors. Outreach and access initiatives have helped expand the talent pool for recruitment, but this has shown results only at junior level, while homogeneity persists amongst senior roles. With evidence showing that more diverse leadership teams make better decisions, this is a social challenge where the solution also has real business value.

Progress Together is a membership organisation, comprising financial services and associated businesses that share a commitment to socio-economic diversity in the sector. Its mission is to improve that diversity at senior levels by enabling the best talent to progress, regardless of background. PwC, as a founding partner, was engaged to help it achieve two key important objectives. Firstly, to help the client advocate for mandatory data collection on socio-economic background, by drafting a response to FCA and PRA consultation papers on diversity and inclusion. Without such data, effective monitoring would be impossible, so the response needed to both make the case and gain support from Progress Together’s member organisations.

Secondly, the firm was asked to design and develop the pilot for an ambitious, industry-wide secondment scheme, to develop talent from less-privileged backgrounds.Career progression into leadership roles is enabled by mentoring, sponsorship, investment in skills, all of which are featured in the leadership programme. Progress Together was keen to facilitate a programme that gives individual exposure to other firms, roles and contacts that might otherwise be elusive.

Over the course of a three-month engagement, PwC’s small team worked with Progress Together’s member businesses and other organisations in the sector, including The Bridge Group, Financial Services Skills Commission, a mix of Financial Services organisations and professional accreditation bodies.

The team created the right environment for agile and collaborative working across the sector, and brought ethnic, gender and class diversity into the room, with new perspectives and the tenacity to challenge established practices and mindsets. For example, the financial services sector has traditionally been very competitive, so a secondment from one firm to another presented many cultural, contractual and practical obstacles. Nonetheless, by uniting the industry around a common goal with important benefits, PwC facilitated workshops that focused discussion on what was possible, and how to make it happen.

For a sector-wide secondment programme to work, it would have to satisfy the needs of participating organisations, whatever their size or sub-sector. The firm’s workshops therefore created space for a broad variety of participants to shape the programme’s design, selection process, learning and development schedules, and success criteria.

Both the consultation response and the pilot programme gained unanimous support from the Progress Together Board, with five member organisations committing to participate in the pilot. As PwC disengages, it looks forward to seeing the secondment launch and, based on the design’s success metrics, demonstrate its benefits for the financial services industry.

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